Engineering dean steps down after 20 years

Bob Schwartz will step in as interim dean while the national search for the permanent dean takes place.

College of Engineering dean James Thompson announced he would step down from his position on Sept. 1.

Thompson was appointed as dean in 1994, and according to to Interim Provost Ken Dean, he leaves a great legacy behind at MU.

“He’s been the dean a long time and has done a lot at the college,” Dean said. “The college itself has grown a lot and so has research and student enrollment.”

Since Thompson became dean, undergraduate student enrollment in the college more than doubled and various new academic programs were initiated in areas such as bioengineering, computer science and information technology.

Undergraduate research and hands-on laboratory-based teaching also experienced similar growth in the last 20 years.

“There was one major renovation in Lafferre Hall during his time and other major work done to create new engineering space in the college,” Dean said.

With Thompson’s time at MU quickly coming to a close, MU spokesman Christian Basi said Thompson looks forward to his future beyond the college and plans to spend time with his growing family.

“He has wanted to spend more time with his family for a while now,” Basi said. “He has four children, eight grandchildren and one on the way.”

Thompson was unavailable for comment.

Until a permanent dean is found, Bob Schwartz, UM System’s chief of staff and custodian of records, has been named interim dean of the college starting in September.

Prior to his current position in the UM System, Schwartz served as academic affairs vice provost and executive vice chancellor at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“He brings a lot of experience as both an engineer and an academic leader,” Basi said. “He has a track record of leading higher education departments and institutions.”

While Schwartz will not be a candidate for permanent deanship, he said he is honored to be the interim dean.

“I must say I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead the MU College of Engineering, which has some amazing things going on,” Schwartz said in an email.

Schwartz will act full time as interim dean while an interim chief of staff and custodian of records for the UM System will be appointed for the time being.

“My plans for the college while serving as interim dean would be to ensure that we achieve the goals that have been stated by Interim Provost Dean and Chancellor (R. Bowen Loftin),” Schwartz said in an email.

Schwartz also said one of his main goals as interim dean is to maintain the momentum of the various programs and projects that are currently ongoing in the College.

A search committee will be formed this summer to start the national search come the fall semester.

Dean hopes to conclude the search by the end of the calendar year.

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